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Historical address of the former commander of Grimes Battery.

The Confederate veterans of the Portsmouth Light Artillery Company, who have survived the Civil War and lived to see this day, are deeply thankful to the people of Portsmouth for this monument, to the erection of which the good men and women have freely and generously contributed.

My comrades and I desire to make public acknowledgement of our gratitude to the contributors.

We have made research as far as possible: and have ascertained that this company was organized on the 14th day of August, 1809, under Capt. Arthur Emmerson, who was commissioned by the first Governor Tyler of Virginia. All the officers and soldiers who fought at Craney Island on the 22d day of June, 1813, are inscribed on the north face of this shaft.

The next commander of whom we find any record is Capt. T. B. Beaton, in 1827. He was succeeded by Capt. Charles Cassell, who remained at its head until 1840, when he was succeeded by Capt. [150] Charles I. Dimmock. Afterwards Capt. George Bourdette and Capt. Virginius O. Cassell were commanders, whether successively or not, I am not advised.

During this long period the organization seems to have maintained a prosperous condition, for its rolls bear the names of many of the foremost citizens of our town and county.

Capt. Carey F. Grimes succeeded Capt. V. O. Cassell and was at its head when Gov. John Letcher called out the Virginia volunteers to defend State sovereignty.

At this time, April 20, 1861, Bernard Fauth and I were lieutenants, and forty-five men were on its muster roll; but in a short time the company was recruited to over 100 men. On the night Gosport navy yard was evacuated by Corn. Charles S. McCauley we were ordered out and parked with four old iron smoothbore guns on the court green. The next morning a gun's crew was sent to the navy yard and the balance of the men with the guns were sent to Fort Nelson, and there the men who had been sent to the navy yard rejoined the company during the day. We remained at Fort Nelson until May 16, 186r, when we were transferred to Hoffler's Creek, in Norfolk county. There we were comfortably encamped in a location where we could observe all the marine events on Hampton Roads, including the celebrated battle between the C. S. Iron-clad Virginia and the Federal fleet.

Our first engagement occurred on October 7, 1861. Some of our men were fishing in a small boat, off shore, when a Federal steamer came over from Newport News after them. We unlimbered our rifle cannon, having received new guns prior to this event, and fired one shot at her. She returned the fire, but her shots falling short, she hastily put back to her own shore.

Time will not allow me to detail many events of our camp life at Hoffler's Creek, so I will only note two incidents.

On Wednesday, November 7, 1861, an election was held with the following result: For President, Jefferson Davis, 48 votes; for Congress, John R. Chambliss, 28 votes; for Congress, William Lamb, 17 votes.

On Tuesday, March 28, 1862, the company was reorganized with ninety-nine men present, all of whom re-enlisted and elected the following officers: Carey F. Grimes, captain; John H. Thompson, first lieutenant; W. T. Fentress, second lieutenant; T. J. Oakum, second lieutenant; Francis Russ, second lieutenant. [151]

April 1 the medical examination took place and we were mustered into the Confederate service by Maj. Edmond Bradford,

On the 23d of April, 1862, our battery was ordered from Hoffler's Creek to reinforce Gen. A. R. Wright at South Mills, N. C., but arrived there too late to participate in the battle of Sawyer's Lane.

We crossed the new cut of the Dismal Swamp canal and bivouacked at Richardson's Mill, on the Pasquotank river, and on the first of May the battery was divided into two sections with a view of attacking the Federal gunboat Lockwood, which was at anchor a few miles above Elizabeth City, N. C.

Capt. Grimes with his section of one gun, recrossed the river to go down on the opposite side so we could attack the enemy simultaneously from both sides of the river.

I took one rifle parrot gun and proceeded by the main road until within range of the vessel, then went into masked bivouac to wait for daylight, and about daylight on the 2d of May I opened fire, firing five shots at the steamer in rapid succession, and I think we struck the ship, for she hauled off down the river. The report of her commander says:

U. S. S. Lockwood, Pasquotank River, N. C., May 2, 1862.
Sir—While lying at anchor at Three Miles Reach about daylight this morning, the enemy opened fire upon me with or two more field pieces at a bend in the river three-quarters to a mile distant. After a sharp engagement of twenty minutes duration, I drove them from their position (as I have subsequently learned), wounding eight of their number and disabling the carriage of one of their field pieces. No casualties on our side. Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

G. W. Graves, Acting Master Commanding. To Lieutenant Commander C. W. Flusher. Commanding Naval Forces at Elizabeth City, N. C.

Now Mr. Graves was very much mistaken as to the damage to us. No man was injured in the affair on our side, nor was any damage done to our gun. We did retreat and return to our camp at Richardson's mill.

When we returned to Portsmouth, we bivouacked for a short time on Edward's farm, and on May 8th were ordered to Bower's [152] Hill. From there we went to Petersburg, arriving on the 14th of May. Then on the 24th of May we were sent to Drewry's Bluff. and at midnight on the 28th reached Richmond, sleeping the balance of the night on the stone steps of the custom house.

Next morning, Mrs. K. Adams, who kept a bakery, generously treated the whole company to a hot breakfast, which they enjoyed and so highly appreciated that the men afterwards held a meeting and adopted resolutions of thanks, which were presented to her by a special committee. That day we turned our faces toward McClellan, who was advancing on Richmond from the Peninsula.

On the 25th of June we had two guns in action at French's Farm, and on July 1st our battery was hotly engaged at famous Malvern Hill, where we lost three men killed and seven wounded, and had fifteen horses killed and wounded. The conduct of our company was highly complimented by General Armistead.

On the night of the 28th of July we were in action with the gunboats and transports at City Point.

When we turned westward for the first Maryland campaign, we were, on the 26th of August, engaged in an artillery duel at Warrenton Springs, Va., where we lost three wounded, one of whom, mortally. Then moving forward we were engaged in tile battle of Second Manassas; then at Crampton Gap on the 14th of September, and, finally, as a distinct organization at bloody Sharpsburg.

There were three sections of Grimes' Battery. I commanded the right section at the Stone Barn when we went into action at Sharpsburg. The left section was about 200 yards distant. Captain Grimes, while directing the fire of the guns on the left, was shot from his horse, and while being carried from the field received two more wounds, and two of the men who were bearing him were killed before they got him under cover.

I was ordered to move the battery back about two hundred yards to a range of hills, and then I heard for the first time that Captain Grimes was wounded. I found him sitting up against a hay rick, almost unconscious. I dismounted from my horse, went to him, put my arms around his neck, drew his head over my shoulder, and said: ‘ Carey, do you know who I am? ’ He did not speak, but nodded assent. I saw he was dying, then I put my mouth close to his ear and said: ‘Carey, this is our last meeting on this earth; if you have got any message for me to carry home, if I should [153] live to get there, now tell me.’ He whispered: ‘Tell my wife I died for my country and her.’

Then becoming unconscious, I left him, with a detail of men. He died about 8 o'clock that night, and next morning we wrapped his body in a tent fly and buried him under a tree in the field with Masonic rites.

While we were engaged in the ceremonies, the owner of the farm joined us, and said: ‘This shall be a sacred spot: I will put a fence around it to protect it.’

Soon after we were ordered to retreat to the Virginia side of the Potomac; we then disinterred the body, put it in an ambulance in charge of Keith Parker and John W. Snow, who brought it over the river and buried it on the farm of Mr. Levi Mohler, the father of Mrs. Arthur Wilson, of this city. There it remained until it was brought home and reinterred in our Oak Grove Cemetery, where the Portsmouth Light Artillery Monument Association has set a granite marker to tell the spot where the ashes of the brave soldier rest.

The battle of Sharpsburg took place on the 16th and 17th of September, 1862. The artillery organization was reduced in men and horse to such an extent that on the second of October General Lee instructed General Wm. N. Pendleton to submit a plan for reorganization, which he did, and it was approved and made effectual in special orders No. 200: Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia, October 4, 1862. * * * VII. The three companies of Major Saunders' Battalion will be formed into two. The officers of Thompson's Battery (late Grimes') are relieved from duty with the company, and the men will be distributed by Major Saunders between Moorman's and Huger's batteries.

There were seventy-two batteries in the army and eighteen were consolidated, leaving fifty-four organizations. This order was promulgated to our company at Winchester, and aroused great indignation among the men, and almost insubordination was manifested; but I advised them to consider the matter soberly and not to disgrace themselves; that I would seek a personal interview with General Lee to see if he would revoke it. I immediately rode to his headquarters, and after dismounting, met Colonel Chilton, and asked him if General Lee was in? He said yes, and just at that time General Lee came out of his tent. I walked up to him with his order in my hand, saluted him which he returned, then introduced [154] myself as Captain Thompson, of the Portsmouth Light Artillery Company. Presenting the order, I said: ‘General, I have come to ask for a reconsideration of this order.’ He replied: ‘Captain, that order was from the best information of the condition of the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia, and it was promulgated for the best interest of that arm of the service. The distribution was not intended to reflect upon the officers or men, but was necessary for the better organization of the artillery corps. Now, Captain, you know that the highest duty of a soldier is to obey orders; go to Richmond as your orders require and do whatever you may be ordered. It is just as honorable to do your duty there, and far safer.’ The great commander treated me with the utmost consideration, and I saw it was useless to say more on that question, so I said: ‘General Lee, I wish to shake your hand’ He gave me a warm handshake, and we parted.

I went to Richmond as required, reported and was assigned to duty in the provost marshal's office.

After awhile, I was sent to Augusta, Ga., to supervise the transportation of prisoners to Andersonville, when the prison at that place was established. On my return to Richmond, General Winder made a requisition for me to command the prison at Andersonville, upon which an order was made out and sent to me, which I returned with this endorsement:

‘I respectfully return this order to the general commanding the Department of Henrico, with this statement: Captain Thompson did not enter the Confederate army to become a “Jack Ketch,” a jailer or a prison keeper.’

General Gardner immediately sent for me and said: ‘Captain, do you know the responsibility you have incurred by such an endorsement on an official paper?’ I said: ‘I mean no disrespect; but I hope you will take up my cause and keep me from being a prison keeper.’ Through my general's influence the orders were revoked and Captain Henry Wirz was sent in my place.

Friends, I cannot go over my military service in further detail. I was in Danville when General Lee surrendered, went in company with Mr. J. H. Sands, of Richmond, to Greensville, N. C. There General Beauregard advised us to go back to Dick Taylor. I said: ‘If there is a spot of land where our flag flies, I will find it.’ We [155] pushed on, but were captured and paroled in South Carolina, so ended my career as a Confederate soldier.

My wife was a refugee in Richmond, therefore I made my way to that city. I wore the uniform in which I surrendered, having on this coat, and coming out of Fourth street to the corner of Broad, I met the provost guard in command of a lieutenant, who accosted me: ‘Don't you know it is against orders to wear those buttons?’ and before allowing me time to respond, ordered his men to cut them off, and the soldiers performed the operation. When it was over I said: ‘Well, that is the bravest act I have witnessed since I have been in Richmond.’ The ‘brave’ officer warned me to say no more on penalty of arrest. I was under parole, and it was a humiliating oppression, which I knew General Grant would have scorned; but I have forgiven all of my enemies, and have since made many dear friends among those who wore the blue uniform. Since the day of parole, I have always endeavored to follow the advice of General Lee, and be a good citizen of the United States.

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